Marvelous Martin Masters Sonoma again

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 11: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 11, 2023 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

The door has now seemingly been opened for Martin Truex Jr. After ending a 54-race winless drought at Dover in May, Truex added another the 33rd of his career with a dominating win on the road course at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.

It was his 4th win at Sonoma most among active drivers and one behind Jeff Gordon who has 5 victories at the northern California track and it was his first there since 2019.

“We couldn’t do this without all of our partners, all of our fans,” Truex said. “Man, feels incredible to have a day like that, a run like that, a team like I have. They’re doing everything right right now and it’s a lot of fun to drive these cars. Thanks to them.”

With no cautions for Stage breaks there were only two on the day. The second one came at lap 93 of 110.

Three drivers elected to stay out during that final caution: Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney.  Truex restarted 4th with fresh tires and had the lead again a lap after the restart. Kyle Busch, who also took tires during the final caution was able to muscle his way to second and tried to stay with Truex. It wasn’t to be however, and Truex cruised to victory winning by 2.9 seconds after leading a race high 51 laps.

Busch, who did win Stage 2, had to settle for second.

“I wish we had a little bit more,” Busch said. “I tried really hard at the end to at least try to keep Martin honest. Felt like I could beat him a little bit on a lap, then I would mess up. He would beat me by a little bit more on the next lap. We were just kind of trading a little bit there. He was able to pull away there late.

“We gave it everything that we had. We made a lot of changes. We got a lucky break there with a yellow with only three laps on tires, so we were able to kind of cycle to the front. Once we got up there, we could maintain pace with some of the good cars and have a good top-three speed race car. Just kind of flip-flopped the race a little bit.

“Good fortunes for us. Nice to come out here with a P2 after a win last week.”

The second and final caution came at the expense of Denny Hamlin. Hamlin, the pole sitter, led the first 33 laps, the second most on the day, and won Stage 1. But on lap 93 while running 10th his Toyota clipped the wall coming out of Turn 12 and was sent first the far wall then the inside wall at the start-finish line. The toe link on his car was broken and he was forced to the garage and listed as finishing last.

Joey Logano, and Chris Buescher finished third and fourth and only Elliott was able to take advantage of the strategy to finish fifth.

Reddick suffered a flat tire on lap 104 coming into Turn 12. He short cut the turn to get back to pit road rather than go all the way around the track. He was later given a pass-through penalty for the move and finished 33rd. Blaney, who overcame a pit road speeding penalty early in the race, was running solidly inside the top 10, 7th, when he spun with 7 laps to go. Later on the same lap he spun again. Both times he was able to continue but had to settle for 31st.

AJ Allmendinger was sixth; Michael McDowell also used smart pit strategy to finish 7th, with Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain rounding out the top 10.  NASCAR will now track its only scheduled break of the season, returning to race at Nashville Superspeedway in two weeks.

For Truex, his second win of the season puts him back in contention for the title. He leaves Sonoma with the points lead, 13 over William Byron and is once again having fun.

“It’s why we do it,” he said. “This is why you go through years like we had last year. You just keep fighting. You never give up on it. You always believe in each other.

“We haven’t changed anything on our team other than parts and pieces. It’s through a lot of hard work of a lot of people.”

Toyota Save Mart Results (PDF)

Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, California
Sunday, June 11, 2023

1. (8) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 110.
2. (12) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 110.
3. (17) Joey Logano, Ford, 110.
4. (7) Chris Buescher, Ford, 110.
5. (10) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 110.
6. (5) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 110.
7. (3) Michael McDowell, Ford, 110.
8. (16) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 110.
9. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 110.
10. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 110.
11. (21) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 110.
12. (13) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 110.
13. (22) Ryan Preece, Ford, 110.
14. (26) William Byron, Chevrolet, 110.
15. (14) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 110.
16. (25) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110.
17. (18) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 110.
18. (6) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 110.
19. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.
20. (19) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 110.
21. (23) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 110.
22. (9) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 110.
23. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.
24. (32) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 110.
25. (34) Austin Cindric, Ford, 110.
26. (35) Grant Enfinger(i), Chevrolet, 110.
27. (36) Harrison Burton, Ford, 110.
28. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110.
29. (24) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 110.
30. (29) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 110.
31. (31) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 110.
32. (28) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 109.
33. (2) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 109.
34. (30) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 109.
35. (33) Andy Lally, Ford, 109.
36. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 92.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 81.989 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 40 Mins, 12 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.979 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 2 for 6 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 1-32;M. Truex Jr. 33-50;D. Hamlin 51;K. Busch 52-68;M. Truex Jr. 69-74;M. McDowell 75;C. Elliott 76-79;M. Truex Jr. 80-92;R. Chastain 93;C. Elliott 94-96;M. Truex Jr. 97-110.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 51 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 33 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 17 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 7 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 1 lap; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,19,20,16,34,45,17,54,48,47
Stage #2 Top Ten: 8,22,1,24,47,3,19,34,20,4

Greg Engle